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Business small

Chairman John Cruise



President/Executive Publisher Steve Levine Vice President/Publisher/ Creative Director/Editor Barbara Davis-Levine Chief Financial Officer Ervin Hughes Publisher’s Assistant Jerome Davis Graphic Designer Genera Media Malka Levy Photographers Genera Media Gwen Juarez Contributing Writers Krissi Barr Maureen Brogie Sonia Clayton Barbara Davis Robert Deigh Holly George Charlie Le Bon Hank Moore

Rob Reading Stephanie Reilly Gail Stolzenburg Alan Thomes Mayor Sylvester Turner Holly Uverity Jack Warkenthien

Chief Advisor Hank Moore Publisher’s Advisory Board Denise Adjei Sonia Clayton Donna Cole John Cruise April Day Dr. John Demartini Maya Durnovo Kathie Edwards Mila Golovine Dory Gordon Greg Grant David Holt Richard Huebner Ervin Hughes Jeffrey Jones Darryl King Sandy Lawrence Craig Klein Wea Lee Bertrand McHenry Hank Moore

Lisa M. Morton Mike Muhney Leisa Holland Nelson Annise Parker Page Parkes Howard Partridge Susan Repka Ingrid Robinson Maria Rios Grant Sadler Tony Samper Rita Santamaria William Sherrill Gail Stolzenburg Pam Terry Linda Toyota Mayor Sylvester Turner Jack Warkenthien Carlecia D. Wright Aaron Young

Phone: 832-419-2814 E-Mail: Or Write: Small Business Today P.O. Box 31186 Houston, TX 77231 See us on the web at


LET YOUR FAITH BE STRONGER THAN YOUR FEARS Let’s face it… f starting a business and making it successful were easy, everyone would do it, right?


A whole lot more goes into starting a business and making it a success than simply having an idea. Implementing a business plan takes a great deal of effort.

Ask any entrepreneur who has built a successful business if they have had any challenges along the way. They are going to tell you, “Absolutely!” No matter if that business lies within the realm of your expertise and experience, there are always going to be challenges along the way. Changes such as consumer preferences, competition, demographics, and non-anticipated increases in costs of materials all create setbacks of one kind or another. Our cover honoree this month, Maria Rios of Nation Waste, Inc. and Nation Safety Net, knows all too well how tough it is to start a business, especially when the odds are against it. Maria and her company, Nation Waste, Inc were featured on the cover of our March 2013 issue of SMALL BUSINESS TODAY Magazine. Imagine being a young, Hispanic woman in a male-dominated industry (waste management), having only worked for another waste management company, and never owned or started a company before. You know that the odds were against her from the start! Well, not only has Maria been extremely successful in her waste management business, she has created several divisions including her newest one, Nation Safety Net. You will certainly enjoy and be motivated by her incredible story. Also, in this issue, it is time to shine the spotlight on one of our favorite organizations, the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council. They are celebrating their 45th anniversary this year! SMALL BUSINESS TODAY is very proud to have been a media sponsor of this amazing organization for more than 6 years. Happy Anniversary, HMSDC! Before I conclude my Publisher’s Column this month, I want to leave you with some words of advice from my good friend, Ruben Gonzalez, a 4-time Olympian and National Luge Champion who recommends, “You are bigger than your circumstances. Face your fears, pursue your dreams, and make your life an adventure.” As you start your business or continue to grow it, remember that airplanes take off against the wind! Good Reading, Good Sales, & Success to You,

Steve Levine






FEATURES 03 Publisher’s Column 12 Houston Launches Improved Website     14 Each Role Matters.





Preserving the Business and Legacy of Independent Community Pharmacy              


The Value of Support Staff.  

Enhance Service by Optimizing Your Online Presence

Your Next Step The C.A.U.S.E. Behind Your Success: On-Purpose Passion

29 30

5 Brand-Sabotaging Mistakes to Avoid


How Small Businesses Can Avoid Being Caught out by Brand Infringement

32 33

Networking with Books


Top 3 Myths of Cyber Risk for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

Getting Organized: 5 Productivity Mistakes You May be Making Changing Times: What Is The Future Of Corporate Learning And Training?


Houston Minority Supplier Development Council


These Five Tips Will Improve Your SBA Loan Application Success



Examples of When Small Business Insurance Can Save the Day

Killer PR Tips and Tricks You Can Use Today to Get in the Press and Grow Your Business!                  




Maria Rios –

Nation Waste, Inc. and Nation Safety Net Taking Safety in the Workplace to a Whole New Level


aria Rios has always been a force to be reckoned with. After starting Nation Waste, Inc. in 1997 with nothing but a dream and a strong belief in herself, Maria has built a tremendous organization, one customer at a time. On job sites, men would often belittle her and make derogatory remarks just because she was a young woman in a man’s world. That didn’t deter her from believing that she could compete and win in the same arena with seasoned, male-owned waste removal businesses by focusing on superior customer service. Before Maria, there were no women leaders to speak of in the waste industry, let alone one who has been recognized by two presidential administrations! Presently, it is still a male-dominated field, but now that Maria has come to play, Nation Waste’s annual revenues range in the millions of dollars and continues to create more and more jobs in each of its divisions, including its newest division, Nation Safety Net. With the establishment of Nation Safety Net, Maria is taking safety in the workplace to a whole new level utilizing the latest, state-of the-art IBM Watson IoT technology.

Queen of Trash and Technology Maria Rios! Photo by Gwen Juarez

Due to the violent civil war in El Salvador, Maria and her family emigrated to the United States and settled in Houston when she was 13 years old. Fortunately, her parents’ solid financial background made it easy for them to secure visas. Even though Maria’s parents were quite successful in their homeland, they felt that they could provide Maria and her two older sisters with a better education and more opportunity by living in the United States. Maria’s father had done very well in farming, ranching, and the cattle industry in El Salvador. He also did importation and exportation of farm equipment. Maria attributes most of her success from all that she learned from her parents and considers her father as her greatest source of inspiration. Whatever her father did, he did well. He was a great mentor and role model who taught Maria to dream big and not only talk the talk but walk the walk.

heard that she wanted to get married right after graduating high school, her mother became quite distraught. Maria tried reassuring her that she was still going to continue her education and attend college. Very reluctantly, her mother gave her approval for Maria to get married. True to her word, after returning from her honeymoon, Maria began attending college full time.

Whenever Maria became discouraged in school and expressed that she felt she couldn’t do something, her father would reply, “The sky is the limit.” That became Maria’s mantra as well. “Nothing is impossible; the sky is the limit,” exclaimed Maria! Maria’s mother also shared the same high expectations of her. Always wanting to make her parents proud, Maria regularly won trophies, medals, and prizes for her exceptional work in school and extracurricular activities such as track. Her success was also due to her following in her father’s footsteps by practicing the ethic of finishing everything she started.

Eventually the company was sold to a large waste company. Maria was quite delighted to find that they really appreciated her intelligence and bilingual capabilities and gave her the opportunity for advancement. She began to climb the company ladder from receptionist to the sales department and then to the management department. Reflected Maria, “I spoke Spanish and English and that was to my benefit because I worked my way up to the environmental division where I was working in the field. I’ve been very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time because the company sent me to many seminars and other work-related programs. I made a point to observe and learn everything I could from those programs.”

While attending high school, Maria met a young man name Magdaleno (Leno) Rios. It wasn’t long before the two of them knew that they were in love and wanted to spend their lives together. When Maria’s mom

As time went by, Maria and Leno became parents. College and textbooks had become more expensive and one income wasn’t covering the expenses of raising a child and owning a home. Maria realized that she needed to get a job as well. A friend of hers had mentioned that she knew of a small waste company that was looking for a bilingual receptionist, so Maria applied for the job. With her outgoing personality and excellent speaking skills in both English and Spanish, Maria was hired on the spot.

All the while, Maria continued to take college courses, but in the pro-

cess, she had two more children. Despite all her obstacles, working full time, and having three young children, Maria finally completed her education and attained a BA in Business at the University of Houston. True to form, determined Maria had finished what she had started ten years before! Upon graduating, Maria had put a business plan together to have her own waste removal and recycling company. Feeling that quality service was not being provided by the large companies, Maria decided that there was a need for it and that she could deliver the quality that was needed. After putting the business plan together, she applied for two loans and quickly was approved for enough money to pay for two trucks, equipment, and all the licensing that was required for permitting, bonding, etc. So, in 1997, Maria launched Nation Waste, Inc. Since then, Maria continues to grow her business, one customer at a [ APRIL 2018 ]



Strategic growth and expansion is the key to Nation Waste’s continued success.. Photo by Gwen Juarez

time and one contract at a time, and as she does, she secures the necessary loans to purchase new technology, innovative products, trucks, and equipment based on the immediate need. “The more customers you get, the more equipment you need, but you have to be careful because you don’t want to overextend yourself. With regards to buying more trucks and equipment, I tell everyone that it’s not for the show, but for the need,” explained Maria. As a young girl, Maria observed her parents growing their businesses and became quite versed in the principles of building and maintaining excellent credit. After getting her first job, Maria quickly opened a savings and checking account. By the time she applied for a business loan, her credit history was so impeccable that she was able to breeze through 8 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ APRIL 2018 ]

the process in securing the loan. The amazing thing is that the loan was in no way small. In fact, it was over a quarter of a million dollars! Presently, front load trucks cost anywhere from $270,000 to $285,000, roll-off trucks cost anywhere from $150,000 to $185,000, and dumpsters cost anywhere from $500 to $8,000 (and Maria literally has hundreds of them). In addition, the prices keep increasing. When Maria first began in business, she acquired her first clients through cold calling, networking, and planting a lot of seeds. Maria explained, “One should never stop networking because that is the primary key to success. If you’re not networking, you’re losing business.” She also focused on providing waste services to small accounts such as momand-pop owned businesses which were more steady and secure. In ad-

dition, Nation Waste, Inc. provides services to Fortune 500 companies and government contracts. It especially helps that Nation Waste, Inc. is a Hispanic, woman-owned business and a HMSDC (Houston Minority Supplier Development Council) Certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise). Initially, Maria’s husband Leno was not supportive of her dream to have her own company. He had been the lead driver at the same company that Maria had worked for prior to starting her business, but a year later, Maria had so much work that she hired him! Maria elaborated, “We’ve been working side-by-side and he’s been supportive ever since.” Maria stated, “When I started this company, it began as a family-oriented business and it was primarily family members who worked for the business. Now,

we’re able to hire the most qualified candidates for the business but our culture is still family-oriented, and it is such a unique way to conduct business. We can gather, talk, meet, and deliver.” Bankers are another key factor in Maria’s success. “One of the things I learned was to associate with people who can give me good advice; people who have done this before or have been in this business before,” stated Maria. “I like to cultivate relationships with people who have more experience, like my professors and leading women entrepreneurs across the country.” A great deal of Maria’s success is due to her philanthropic efforts and civic mindedness. She has never been one to look what’s going into her pocketbook. Servicing the community and helping others has always been a priority to her. When there were fires in Magnolia, Maria was there helping the community. She donated dumpsters for the SOS (the Organization for the Underserved Areas). During the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and the surrounding areas, Maria and her team delivered portable toilets and handwashing stations for the first responder units at all the designated locations including the George R. Brown Convention Center. “Our Nation Waste team and I were excited to be part of the effort and recognize the importance of helping address this need,” expressed Maria. “We really have a great team and helping others comes pretty naturally.” Other philanthropic efforts of Maria’s include donating time to mentor other women business owners and going to different not-for-profit organizations and donating money

or time. When Maria first began her business, she was very appreciative that people mentored her; that is why she recognizes the importance of mentoring others in return. Maria enjoys civic engagement and participates on several boards including the City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity Advisory Board, the Greater Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation Board of Directors, the Texas Association of Business Board, and the State of Texas Chamber Board. Maria was a participant in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. Part of the curriculum entailed creating a growth plan. The growth plan was so well-received that Goldman Sachs continues to feature Maria’s plan nationwide.

trepreneurs. In 2015, the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) announced Rios as one of the Top 27 Women Entrepreneurs in the World. Also in 2015, Rios was featured on CNBC’s Blue Collar Millionaires titled “The $30M Empire Built on Trash”. Ms. Rios is proud to support the construction industry in green initiatives and the recycling arena. Nation Waste, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) offering LEED points, HUB Certified, Port of Houston Authority SBE, MWBE, HMBC, AGC, HMSDC, Dun & Bradstreet, member of the HHCC, METRO approved, a GOLD member of the Better Business Bureau, and has current Federal Facility Clearances.

When the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presented Maria with the Women Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award, they did a tribute to her and it showed her picking up boxes full of debris from Hurricane Katrina. She didn’t know she was being filmed but the media was all over and noticed her individual efforts. Obviously, Maria isn’t someone afraid of hard work or getting her hands dirty. In addition, this talented lady has a CDL and knows how to use it!

Never satisfied with being status quo, Maria recently opened her newest division, Nation Safety Net. Safety is a very important factor with Maria’s operation and because of that Maria recognized that all types of companies and industries needed to focus on safety as well. With that in mind, over a two-and-a-half-year period, Maria has been developing a multitude of safety products with state-of-the-art cognitive, wearable technology that is taking safety in the workplace to a whole new level.

Besides superior customer service setting her apart from others in the industry, Maria has been to the White House two times with two different administrations where she was recognized for entrepreneurial excellence. Fortune named Maria as one of the 2013 Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and in 2014, Goldman Sachs honored Maria as one of its 100 Most Intriguing En-

All the safety products are powered by IBM Watson IoT (Internet of Things), a cognitive system that learns from and infuses intelligence into the physical world. The IoT is now a reality due to the convergence of several technologies. The Internet of Things can make life easier and reinvent the way we interact with the physical world. A “thing” is any object with embedded electronics that [ APRIL 2018 ]



It takes team work to be #1 in the #2 business. Photo by Gwen Juarez

can transfer data over a network without any human interaction. A Fitbit is an example of that application. So, imagine if you had smart devices in your home, your car, your workplace, or even on yourself. Wearable devices, environmental sensors, machinery in factories, components in a vehicle, or devices in homes and buildings can all be connected to deliver insights and drive transformation. Maria explained, “We’ve developed a new application for safety that is powered by IBM. Employees will be wearing devices like safety helmets that have technology to track personal safety conditions such as falls, excessive fatigue, and heat stress, as well as panic conditions and time-indexed location information. We will be monitoring to prevent injuries and hazards, sending alerts related to overexertion, heat stress, helmet off, fatigue, 10 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ APRIL 2018 ]

panic, and falls. Location is provided to colleagues or emergency services if help is needed. We have partnered with IBM to power this because of IBM’s global brand presence and innovation. So, whether we have internet or don’t have internet, we are able to function in areas where there’s no connection, like the oil and gas industries, their offshore rigs, or abroad.” “According to the United States Department of Labor, 13 workers are fatally wounded each day in the United States,” elaborated Maria. “More than 27 million workdays are lost each year to injuries on the job. Millions are lost each year to injury, productivity losses, and brand erosion. That is why I created Nation Safety Net, so that our company could help reduce the number of injuries in the workplace, to save lives, and help companies save money. OSHA is already a partner of this.”

Even though Maria has helped so many people and organizations, she has not limited her philanthropic efforts to the U.S. In her parents’ honor, she donated a soccer field and land to build a church in the small town of El Mogotillo in El Salvador where she had grown up before coming to the U.S. The town never had a church until Maria donated land to build one. She has never forgotten her roots or her community and is making sure that the church continues to grow. Maria Rios’ success has always stemmed from her philanthropic efforts and her commitment to providing the best possible service in everything she does. The creation of Nation Safety Net, which is taking safety in the workplace to a whole new level, is simply an extension of Maria’s desire to create the jobs of tomorrow and make the world a better place through innovation.

Maria’s Best Words of Wisdom 1.

No matter what the circumstances are, always keep moving forward.


Hard work pays off.


Build relationships, which will build your business.


No one can take your education from you.

3. 4.

Go the extra mile because there is no 8. traffic there. 9. Be bold. 10.


Your authentic self is your best self.

Always be punctual. Don’t waste precious time. Family first.

Looking to the future and staying informed about every aspect of Nation Waste and Nation Safety Net is imperative to Mrs. Rios’ success. Photo by Gwen Juarez

[ APRIL 2018 ]



Houston Launches

Improved Website                 BY MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER


am excited to announce the launch of the City’s improved website, www.houstontx. gov. Almost half a million people use our website each month, so I wanted visitors, residents and businesses to have the best experience possible when engaging with the City online.

The new site features many of the City’s most popular online pages, such as job opportunities, animal adoption and trash and recycling information. It also features tools that provide the information in more than 100 languages. Launching a website that celebrates the unique diversity and welcoming nature of our City was a priority for me. We now have a site that works for everyone and serves as a tool that makes it easier for Houstonians and others to access services, find information, and engage with local government Since more than half of all users go to the site from their cell phones and tablets, enhancements were made to allow for better navigation on mobile devices. The site also features improvements to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and general usability. This would have typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if done by an outside contractor, but the redesign was accomplished by a taskforce led by the Mayor’s Office of Communications and Office of Innovation, with Houston Information Technology Services Department overseeing the project at no extra cost to taxpayers. Additionally, the three finalists of the “Digital Design Challenge” -- Brand Ranch Media, Don Suttajit, and Think Thank Ideas -- provided


It also features tools that provide the information in more than 100 languages. Launching a website that celebrates the unique diversity and welcoming nature of our City was a priority for me. We now have a site that works for everyone and serves as a tool that makes it easier for Houstonians and others to access services, find information, and engage with local government valuable community input by presenting their vision for the City’s website design to me. The City is also launching a new web governance policy in the coming weeks to ensure pages are maintained consistent and content is updated regularly. We are making every effort to establish the City of Houston as a global leader in technology and innovation. Our website exemplifies the spirit of Houston and shows our commitment to making technology work for all Houstonians.

To contact Mayor Sylvester Turner about matters regarding the City of Houston: Mayor Sylvester Turner - City of Houston, P.O. Box 1562, Houston, TX 77251, Phone: 713.837.0311


Each Role Matters.

The Value of Support Staff.                     



very person in the company matters to its success. Every job is important, as is filling them with the best people for each job. The art and skill of being great support staff is a cornerstone of business success. From pop culture, think of the great role models that we grew up watching:

Della Street was the loyal secretary to Perry Mason. She knew what everyone was thinking and was the glue to the cases. She was the model for executive assistants and office managers everywhere. The CEO is made stronger with a good C-suite team. Ed McMahon was TV’s premier second banana. He worked as assistant, announcer, commercial pitchman and sketch narrator to Johnny Carson throughout their 29-year run on NBC-TV’s “Tonight Show.” They had previously worked together on a game show, “Who Do You Trust” on ABCTV. Bandleaders on the late-night are vital #3 characters on the show, including Doc Severinsen, Skitch Henderson, Paul Shaffer and The Roots band. The movie star heroes had buddies to help them navigate the adventures. John Wayne and Roy Rogers had Gabby Hayes. Gene Autry had Pat Buttram. TV show stars had great support casts. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had Vivian Vance and William Frawley as Ethel & Fred Mertz. This historic teaming became the formula for most other TV sitcoms. Shows like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “30 Rock,” “The Office” and others had expanded ensemble casts. Some performers made careers as support-


ing players. Ann B. Davis was Schultzy on “The Bob Cummings Show” and Alice on “The Brady Bunch.” Back characters on TV shows included restaurant and bar operators, where the stars went top relax. There were friendly, familiar places such as Cheers bar, Arnold’s Drive-In on “Happy Days,” the Krusty Krab on “SpongeBob Square Pants,” Dale’s Diner on “The Roy Rogers Show” and other homey places. In the business world are those staff people who make us feel more like family. Therefore, our loyalty to the company rises, and we are more productive. Still other back characters bring cohesion to the enterprise. On “Gilligan’s Island,” those glue-adhesive characters were the Professor Roy Hinkley and Mary Ann Summers. Those vital employees in the business world might include the IT guy, the receptionist, the mailroom manager, the ethics adviser and the secretary to the Board of Directors. Great executives know the value of crediting support figures for the business success. Lt. Columbo was always quoting his wife as basis for testing hypotheses, though the character was never shown. Newspaper publisher Perry White was always upstaged by his employees, notably Clark Kent/Superman. Al Roker does the weather on “The Today Show,” and he is also the motivating segment host as well. Nobody turns letters like Vanna White, making her essential to the legacy of “Wheel of Fortune.” And then there were those mentors behind the scene who were responsible for lots of creativity. The Beatles had George Martin as their producer. Steven Spielberg had John Williams as music composer for his films.

Here are some characteristics of support personnel and rising stars who will make it as professionals and business leaders: •

Act as though they will one day be management. • Think as a manager, not as a worker. • Learn and do the things it will take to assume management responsibility. • Be mentored by others. • Act as a mentor to still others. • Don’t expect status overnight. • Measure their output and expect to be measured as a profit center to the company. • Learn to pace and be in the chosen career for the long-run. • Don’t expect that someone else will be the rescuer or enable you to cut corners in the path toward artificial success.

• Learn from failures, reframing them as opportunities. • Learn to expect, predict, understand and relish success. • Behave as a gracious winner. • Acquire visionary perception. • Study and utilize marketing and business development techniques. • Contribute to the bottom line, directly and indirectly. • Offer value-added service. • Never stop paying dues and see this continuum as “continuous quality improvement.” • Study and comprehend the subtleties of life. • Never stop learning, growing and doing. In short, never stop!

Contact information for Hank Moore. Website: Email: Phone: 346-777-1818. Hank Moore has advised 5,000+ client organizations, including 100 of the Fortune 500, public sector agencies, small businesses and non-profit organizations. His Legends books have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.


A host of people make the CEO look good. Further, they transform the company to greater plateaus. Warmly recognize the contributions of executive assistants, trusted advisers, mentors, support staff, hier apparents, adjuncts, vendors and outside stakeholders.


Your Next Step

The C.A.U.S.E. Behind Your Success: On-Purpose Passion BY JACK WARKENTHIEN


n the book, CAUSE! A Business Strategy For Standing Out In A Sea of Sameness, by Drs. Jackie and Kevin Friedberg, the authors make the case for what can happen when a business is defined as a cause. Furthermore, for businesses that rally around a heroic cause, they tend to attract a higher level of employee talent. A critical part of any employment engagement has been missing. If you haven’t watched THE most viewed TED Talk of all time, by Simon Sinek, you should invest twenty minutes in doing so. His message is all about the “Why”, and how an effective one will allow you to soar, and separate yourself from your competitors. Companies seem to spend too much time focused on “How” and not the “Why”. Consider this message as your invitation to change the world, and transform why people will want to buy from you--for their reasons, more than yours. THE DEFINITION of CAUSE Let’s dust off that ol’ Oxford Dictionary (I know you still use one!), and look up the definition of Cause--A person or thing that gives rise to an action, phenomenon, or condition; a principle-aim or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate. When the business becomes a cause, what follows is a movement. Dr. Friedberg states, “When people find something noble and heroic to be part of, their lives and work take on greater meaning and significance”. Another tangible benefit of this theory: your employees will think more like owners and become more committed to the growth of your firm.

THE ACRONYM--C.A.U.S.E. C: Conviction Equals Passion--It’s hard for anyone to harbor conviction without applying a degree of passion for the cause. Remember, all decisions are based on emotion, and justified with logic. Said another way: when the heart is sold, the mind will follow-it’s not the other way around! A sale is actually a transference of emotion, from one party to another, and there’s nothing more convincing that a person with deep conviction. Jack’s Snack: The depth of one’s conviction is more important than the length of one’s knowledge. A: Assume the Desired Outcome(s)-When you’re selling your product, service, company, opinion, or even yourself, a sale is always made. Either you’ll sell the other party on YES, or they’ll sell you on NO. In your mind, and as you visualize, assume you’ve already made the sale, and it’s amazing how many times you’ll win the conversation. With enough conviction, it’ll always be more difficult for anyone to talk you out of your YES. U: Understand Their End Game-The late, great Stephen R. Covey, taught us to begin with the end in mind--one of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, from the best-selling book, originally published in 1989. Your job in any Sales conversation is to ensure both parties agree on the definition of The Winner’s Circle. There must be room for both of you, in that circle, and all recommendations should support long-term, mutually beneficial, prosperous relationships--and outcomes.


S: Stand Out!--Being outstanding is no longer good enough--if fact, today’s that’s just the ante. If you don’t want to continue swimming in the Sea of Sameness, you must identify your Unique Value Proposition. Once you do, you can create your own Value Equation, that highlights the 5-10 reasons that your Customers do business with you--and not your competitors. Hone the answer to the statement, “We’re the ONLY ones that...................”. It’s up to you to fill in the blanks. E: Enjoy the Journey--Ya gotta have fun at work! Find ways to make work more like play, and above all, learn to keep score for fun and profit. Having an enjoyable atmosphere, with a modicum of competition sprinkled in, your people will enjoy participating and coming to work. When you’re selling, if you can get the other party to smile, or better yet, to laugh, you can get them to buy--and see “it” your way. FINALLY.......... Companies that are motivated by a core reason, prime passion--or cause, perform better, have more fun, develop strong leaders and attract more followers. Am I describing your company?

Jack Warkenthien, CEO, NextStep Solutions. Email him at or call him at 832344-6998


Getting Organized:

5 Productivity Mistakes You May be Making BY HOLLY UVERITY CPO®, OFFICE ORGANIZERS


he desire to increase productivity is normally an offshoot of the natural desire to better oneself in general. Sometimes it can be an edict from above but even if that’s the case, we feel better about ourselves once we’ve made some positive changes in how we’re doing something or even what we’re doing.

As an example, don’t get a new tech gadget just because you think you should or a new one came out; if the one you’ve got works well for you, leave it be. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

It’s easy to focus on the wrong thing when you’re beginning to look at your productivity; here are some common mistakes that smart, professional people can make when trying to become more productive and better organized. Are you making any of them?

when something new hits you, simply hold that new item up against your goals to see where and how it fits in. Sometimes you’ll need to take care of that item right away but sometimes you won’t. It’s only when your goals are clear that you can see the difference.

Changing for the sake of change

Not managing the expectations of your co-workers

Sometimes we make changes simply because we think we should. As you’re evaluating your work habits, be sure to focus first on those that are no longer working for you and change those. As an example, don’t get a new tech gadget just because you think you should or a new one came out; if the one you’ve got works well for you, leave it be. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Not working off your agenda

Businesspeople often believe they can never get anything accomplished because they’re always working off someone else’s agenda. To a degree, that may be true but I maintain, and teach, that we each do have control over our time – we simply have to take it. Working off your agenda doesn’t mean you ignore everyone else’s needs but it does mean their needs don’t automatically take precedence over yours. If your goals are clear,

Communication is key – period. You can’t fault someone for not living up to your expectations if you never tell them what those expectations are. It’s important to clearly communicate to your peers, bosses and colleagues what your expectations, and limitations, are. It’s impossible to become more productive in a vacuum.

Living in your email instead of your calendar

Most of my clients live in their email, and by that, I mean they spend their day reading and responding to what’s in their In Box. While your work may come via email, it’s important to remember that email is simply the means of transmission of the work and just because you can answer something immediately, it doesn’t mean you should. Part of your improved productivity plan should include moving deadline driven work out

of your email and into your calendar because it’s only when work has a place on your calendar that it gets completed. If you’re relying on your email to tell you what to do, you’re missing half the equation – your email In Box will tell you what to do but only your calendar will tell you when to do it.

Not writing everything down

Getting everything out of your head should be a goal every day, week and month. Nothing is as freeing as writing something down and not having to try to juggle it in your head. It doesn’t make you any smarter, or more productive, to keep everything in your head – in fact, it slows you down. It’s critical that you have some sort of mechanism always at hand that will allow you to capture a random thought, a deadline that’s due, a shopping list item or a multimillion dollar idea. They are all equally important at any given time and by writing them down, you’ll ensure that they’re always available to you. I advocate keeping a spiral notebook with you to write on but if you’d rather write it in your phone or on your tablet, that’s ok too. The key is to get it out of your head and depending on what it is, into your calendar.

Office Organizers is The Entrepreneur’s Organizer. Founded in 1993, they work with business people to create solutions to their organizational challenges. Contact them at 281.655.5022, or OfficeOrganizers.

[ APRIL 2018 ]



Changing Times: What Is The Future Of Corporate Learning And Training? BY SONIA CLAYTON – PRESIDENT AND CEO OF VIRTUAL INTELLIGENCE PROVIDERS, LLC.


s Change Manager, I often present on a variety of topics pertaining to Education. As an international guest speaker and I am frequently asked: What is the future of Learning and Training? During the last 25 years, I have seen the world of training and learning evolved from Instructor Led in Classroom settings, to e-Learning, to hybrid or Blended Learning, to Talent Management and Development applications, to Video Training, to Corporate Universities, to Micro-Learnings, to iPad Distributed Learning, all the way to the entire Learning Ecosystem, a concept my firm VIP-Global pioneered back in 2013. Brigham Fay, from Harvard School of Education mentions that the world of learning is “transforming before our eyes” [1], it is fair to say that the future of Learning and Training will come from technical innovators and education professionals who are willing to adopt and endorse disruptive technologies. Let us remember, that for more than 100 years, during the first industrial revolution, people worked with their hands to produce goods. Training and employee development was based on the need to manage only applicable and pertaining knowledge to the goods produced. Hence, the principle of “Resource Training” was born. Contrary, in today’s world, most of the work is generated by ideas and thought processes. Making today’s economy a “Knowledge-Based-Economy” in an overpopulated ocean of data, moving at the speed of light. Therefore, the question posed is: How in the world are we supposed to manage so much knowledge, ideas and concepts? And where extraordinary thinking can be incubated, test-


ed and measured to generate disruptive concepts and principles? That is where programing, data technologies and technical resources came into the world of training and learning. Accepting them and inviting them into our world makes a lot of sense. If we consider countries such as China, where goods produced are mainly manufacturing based (repetitive production using machines or by hand), there is no dispute pertaining to the fact that the master-minds of leadership are using digital technologies to work quicker, better and with best quality. Japan, who became the leader in “Lean Manufacturing” processes, also continues to demonstrate that it is the combination of process, people and technology that create a form of learning and educating successful workers. The last known rehearsal tracks of learning and their metamorphosis into today’s approaches are the validation that we must change our traditional perspective on employee training and education. Employers must know how to train, educate, motivate and retain those with disruptive changing and creative minds. Since the need is no longer focused on documenting and training on repetitive practices or processes, we must understand that the main factor is managing the creative minds of the present and the future. In conclusion, the future is not about a specific device says, Daniel Wilson, (Director of Project Zero at Harvard Education) [2], but rather is in the power of collaboration. The new Cloud Solutions allow for collaboration, distribution and easy access. The applications must be carefully selected, and devices will be part of a larger Learning Eco-System. Since we don’t have the luxury of time or budget, from

now on the primary role of corporate leaders, is to prepare and equip employees with the necessary tools and collaborative technologies they need to create, develop, research, learn and train themselves and others on-thejob. The HR office, must focus on hiring employees or end-user’s adept to technology with excellent autonomy, initiative, research, communications, team work and problem-solving skills. Winning the competitors game has a lot to do with the ability of employees to learn onthe-go, solve problems quicker and produce results much faster than their competitors. There is no doubt, that obtaining the right training systems and appropriate technologies in combination with the right resources will accelerate the process or learning and application adoption.

[1] Fay, B Keeping up With the Times. news/15/04/keeping-times. Accessed on January 8th, 2018. [2] Wilson, D. Making Learning Visible: The Power of Group Learning and Documentation in Classrooms and Communities (MLV). https://www.gse. Accessed on January 8th, 2018.

Sonia Clayton is the President & CEO of Virtual Intelligence Providers, LLC ( a Houston based corporation, specializing in ERP Systems, Corporate Training, Organizational Change Management and Learning Ecosystems. Sonia is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist and a member of several higher education and community boards to include the information systems advisory board of the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University. Sonia is also a Harvard Business School Certified Negotiator and a Stanford University Latino Entrepreneur Graduate.

The last known rehearsal tracks of learning and their metamorphosis into today’s approaches are the validation that we must change our traditional perspective on employee training and education

“Moving Minority Business Development and Supplier Diversity Forward in the Future” Companies like GAP Engineering, AMSYS Innovative Solutions, Dominance Apparel, Inc., Nino Properties, Teksync Technologies, Chemplast, DIR Decision Information Services, Inc., and Nuksys Fine Catering are always there when HMSDC needs them the most! Photo by Genera Media


HMSDC Chair - Debra L. Johnson, Director, Office of Procurement, NASA Johnson Space Center. Photo courtesy of HMSDC



he Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HMSDC) is a business development organization that drives excellence in supplier diversity and supplier

Development. This has created a total economic impact of $22.8 billion dollars on the economy with over $17.1 billion dollars in annual revenue. As it prepares to celebrate its 45th anniversary, HMSDC has many new plans to move minority business development and supplier diversity forward into the future. In the past, HMSDC’s focus revolved around their Four Pillars: Certify, Develop, Connect, and Advocate for minority business development. Going forward, under the helm of Ingrid Robinson, President of HMSDC, they will continue to build upon the past, and their new direction will focus on leading, innovating, networking, and growing minority businesses. Ms. Robinson elaborated, “Our national organization has the Four Pillars, which most of our efforts revolve around, but, as an organization, we started looking at where we wanted to move into the future. As we go forward in our 45th year, we will not only focus more on what we are but also what we aspire to be to the minority business community.” Leading HMSDC will continue to lead minority business enterprises (MBE) through a targeted program delivery. This segmented and targeted approach allows HMSDC to work

with businesses that cover a variety of prodHMSDC feels very blessed to have such an ucts and services based on the company’s amazing board. Back row (l-r): Andy Icken, City of size, revenue, and number of employees. Houston; HMSDC Vice Chair - Chris Haas, NRG Energy; HMSDC Secretary - Paul Cannings Jr., The MBE companies are divided into four RPH Consulting Group; Troi Taylor, Taylor revenue classifications: Class One includes Construction Management; Miguel F. Machado, companies that generate revenue under $1 Baylor College of Medicine; Darrell W. Groves, million. Class Two includes companies that DWG CPA PLLC; Michael K. Lewis, Motiva generate revenue between $1 million and Enterprises (Past Board Member); Eduardo $10 million. Class Three includes companies Nunez, ExxonMobil (Past Board Member). Front row (l-r): Paula Mendoza, Possible Missions; that generate between $10 million and $50 Ingrid Robinson, President, HMSDC; million and Class Four includes companies Cindi Salas, CenterPoint that generate $50 million and up. By segEnergy. Not Pictured: HMSDC Chair - Debra L. menting the MBEs, HMSDC is able to delivJohnson, NASA Johnson Space Center; James er programming and development resourc- Brownrigg, Turner Construction Company; Mike es that meet their growth and revenue cycle Frazer, Chevron North America Exploration & Production; Christina Mack, BP; Nadeem Mazhar, needs. HMSDC is leading in program development to satisfy the needs of each revenue category as opposed to looking at all minority businesses as a homogenous group. “While our Class Three or Class Four MBEs may be focused on private equity investment or venture capital,” explained Ms. Robinson, “our Class Ones may be focused on some of the more traditional business classics that include business plans, marketing plans, accounting systems, HR systems, process creation, and project management skills.” Depending on the needs of the MBE, HMSDC targets their services and programs. Ms. Robinson stated, “Many of our entrepreneurs are coming out of Corporate America or have corporate experience. These are more process-driven entrepreneurs in the market today than we had 20 years ago. We’re leading by targeting our programming to meet the needs of today’s entrepreneurs.”

Custom Technology Solutions; Eileen Perillo, Shell Exploration & Production; & David M. Snell, Accenture. Photo by Gwen Juarez.

Innovating Innovation is how HMSDC builds capacity of their MBEs and creates ways to grow their businesses. Other than organic growth, such as opening new markets in other countries, HMSDC is taking on a Local Content Initiative with Mexico. Together, they will provide opportunities for MBEs to develop relationships with companies they already do business with in the U.S., and they will expand those relationships into Mexico. HMSDC is driving innovation by teaming up MBEs with local Mexican companies as second tier suppliers or partners. This enables them to grow their companies and capacity while co-learning different technologies and processes. Over the last year, HMSDC has been building the infrastructure for their Capacity Building Consortium. This is a [ APRIL 2018 ]


It takes a very hard working and dedicated staff to make HMSDC the powerful, award-winning organization that it is! From (l-r): Katherine Peacock/Certification Specialist, Constance Y. Jones/Vice President of Operations, Ingrid Robinson/President, Melody Pahlavan/Events Coordinator, and Lloyd A. Wright/Director of Corporate Services. Photo by Gwen Juarez.

new way to influx capital into firms. HMSDC has identified private equity firms that are interested in investing in minority entrepreneurs. They’re building a structure around the MBE firms that will provide capital yet doesn’t break or hinder the innovation corporations have found unique about these MBE firms. Ms. Robinson commented, “We do want to take a company and look at it and say, using the oil and gas industry as an example, if you have a $200 million revenue company manufacturing in oil and gas, how do we grow them to a billion dollar company? How do we do that in a way that allows them to scale and absorb new work? Part of this Consortium is to provide the MBE risk consultants and the support structure they need not only to help them manage that growth but manage that growth quickly. We’re looking at how we do innovative things like that in order to build capacity for our minority businesses.” HMSDC also has an emphasis on their Strategic Teaming Alliance Committee, which focuses on helping entrepreneurs figure out how to form alliances, joint ventures, or partnerships with other minority entrepreneurs so they are able to go after larger books of business that they couldn’t access alone. There’s a lot of power that comes through the strength of doing business with MBEs. HMSDC is emphasizing it and helping them to focus more on MBE-to-MBE business, not just MBE-to-corporate busi-

ness. Using all of those different approaches, HMSDC is driving innovation to build capacity for minority businesses. Networking HMSDC is focused on networking to better connect the organization and all its tentacles to the Houston Community and vast coverage area. “As we looked at this 45th anniversary year for the Council, we really wanted to talk about how we connect and leverage the relationships and the affiliate partners that we have through networking,” remarked Ms. Robinson. “We partner with great organizations and media groups, such as Small Business Today Magazine, to be able to get our message out and connect minority businesses with major corporations and government agencies. We know so many different people, we leverage those relationships and connect them to opportunities, people, and resources.” HMSDC is working more collaboratively and providing resources to MBEs to save them time and money without them having to chase around town for assistance from multiple organizations. “We don’t plan to duplicate services, but we do plan to do more partnering and leveraging of our relationships with those organizations and entities, to help minority entrepreneurs be able to be more efficient and productive with their time,” added Ms. Robinson.

MBEs build those relationships with corporations. So, they get to know each other, they begin to trust each other, and they build respect for each other which then leads to business opportunities. Because now, there’s rapport there, and a sense of trust and understanding of capabilities. We try to make sure that all our luncheons are specifically designed that way, so that corporations who purchase tables do not have tables where all ten of their people sit together. If that’s the case, they could’ve stayed at their office and had lunch together. We give them two tables of five, so that five entrepreneurs can sit with them at each table to facilitate networking. The HMSDC EXPO is one of the council’s most staple and successful events of its kind throughout the nation. It serves the important purpose of bringing minority business owners face-to-face with many of the nation’s top business decision makers. On average, one in four participating minority business owners converts a contact made at EXPO into a contract within eight months of the show. Ms. Robinson stated, “We have tried some new things over the past year that I think have been welcomed by attendees. You can’t find any other event where you have access to so many decision makers from both the public and private sectors, in one place at one time, looking to meet minority business owners. In 2017, we added the Energy Conference where we partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy. This was one of many new ways of providing additional exposure and information for business leaders to discuss where the real opportunities are for minority businesses in energy. Not only did we talk about oil and gas, but we discussed renewables, electric utilities, liquid and natural gas, and terminals.”

Being able to provide their MBEs access to that type of information and connect them to key leaders who are making those decisions makes for a must-attend event. This year, the EXPO will be a three-day event beginning September 19th and going through September 21st. On the 21st, they’re going to have People do business with people they know, their 45th Anniversary Gala. They are adding trust, and respect. Everything that HMSDC another day to this fantastic event because does with networking events is about helping they not only have companies who are active


H.M.S.D.C. is extremely proud of their Emerging 10 (E-10) Award Recipients each year as they rep- resent the “Best of the Best!” e 2017 Recipients were: From (L-r) back row: Gurmit Bhatia, US Med-Equip; Kenneth G. Jones, Ken Jones Photography; Lloyd Parks, Jr. Dominance Apparel; Mike Homma, Gap Engineering; KC Alexander, Chemplast and Scenes V. Byrd, Teksync Technologies From (l-r) front row: Helen Fu, Mighty Lift; Yolanda Henry, Nuksy’s Fine Catering; Ingrid Robinson, HMSDC; Faimatta Iscandri, Adventus Technologies; Deidre Sutton for Khalid Parekh, AMSYS Innovative Solutions. Photo provided by HMSDC.

in Houston at the HMSDC EXPO, but they have participants from around the country; companies who travel here specifically to meet the caliber of businesses that attend EXPO. Ms. Robinson exclaimed, “We’re excited about it! It’s something we want everyone to mark on their calendars now and register for the events immediately.” Growing HMSDC has been actively working on growing new opportunities and bringing public and private corporations to the Council. Over the past year, HMSDC has been doing research as to what industries in Houston are underrepresented in the Council and are actively targeting those sectors and bringing them into the organization. HMSDC also holds their corporate members accountable for bringing their prime suppliers into the organization to provide opportunities and increase their second tier spend. Due to the recent downturn in the economy and the evolution of supply chain management, many corporations have consolidated their contracts into larger contracts with prime suppliers. In many cases, that may have squeezed out opportunities for some of HMSDC’s MBEs. Second tier is the new first tier for many minority entrepreneurs. It is a priority to connect MBEs to prime suppliers and hold primes accountable for reaching out to minority businesses. HMSDC is recruiting and engaging national corporate members like Nestle and Cintas. These are two major

corporations that have not been active in the Council in the past but are now. Cintas has a world renown self-development training program that they use; it’s called the Cintas Way. Companies spend thousands of dollars to send their salespeople through this training. They are offering this phenomenal training to HMSDC MBEs to help them in their growth and development and expose them to some of the secrets that Corporate America has been using. “We’re looking to help grow MBEs through exposure to new primes, new corporations, new governmental agencies, and new industry. We are focusing more on aerospace now that NASA will be focusing on Mars. There are going to be a lot of opportunities and activities happening at Johnson Space Center. I believe by having Debra Johnson, the CPO there who is also now the Chair of our Board, we will be able to be an active participant in bringing those primes like Boeing and others to the table. These connections are going to create some amazing opportunities that our MBEs haven’t had access to in the past,” stated Ms. Robinson. Annual MBE Scholarship Fundraiser The Annual MBE Scholarship Fundraiser is an integral part of what HMSDC does. They know that it’s important to provide business opportunities but it’s equally important that minority businesses stay on the cutting edge of their industries. That only happens by them being able to attend trainings, events,

and seminars that help MBEs remain relevant and be viewed as leaders in their industry. HMSDC has awarded over $1.2 million in MBE Business Executive Scholarships. What makes their scholarship program so unique is that the criteria for getting a scholarship is quite simple. The MBE must actively participate in the Council by serving on one of HMSDC’s committees, and they also must participate in the HMSDC Scholarship Fundraiser Golf Tournament which raises the money for those scholarships. By fulfilling those two requirements, an MBE qualifies for up to $5000 in executive education sponsorships through the Council. HMSDC has a committee made up of corporate members who review the scholarship applications and decide on the funding amount. One of the benefits of how the HMSDC Scholarship Program is structured is that they don’t try to tell an MBE what their business needs are. The MBE identifies the course that they would like to take, and the Scholarship Committee considers it and funds it. “We have entrepreneurs who take industry specific training where they want to learn a new technique or understand a new piece of equipment. We have some who are in schools getting their degrees or industry specific certifications,” reflected Ms. Robinson. “I think that’s one of the things that makes us unique; that we’re about the overall development of the MBE; we want to grow their bottom lines; and we also want to grow their minds utilizing the knowledge and expertise we have within our organizations.” Houston Minority Supplier Development Council has come a long way and accomplished so much in the past 45 years since their inception. Most importantly, they will keep finding ways to improve even more in the future. With Ms. Robinson at the helm, there is no doubt that HMSDC will continue driving minority business development and supplier diversity forward in the future through their new direction on leading, innovating, networking, and growing! For more information on how the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council can help move your business forward in the future, contact them at 713-271-7805, visit them on the Web at, or email them at [ APRIL 2018 ]



These Five Tips Will Improve Your SBA Loan Application Success BY ALAN THOMES


ew small businesses survive without an extra line of credit or a loan at some point. Thankfully, there are options. Guaranteed by the federal government, SBA loans help small businesses expand operations, build or renovate existing properties or buy other companies. Traditional banks tend to be highly selective in choosing who to lend money, preferring borrowers who have borrowed at least once and have paid back at least one loan on time. But SBA loans offer some unique benefits, including lower payments over a longer period. That’s not to say getting an SBA loan is a walk in the park. To add to the daunting challenge, many prospective borrowers who want to expand are often seeking their first business loan. As a result, a large number are unprepared and risk being denied. Still, while the process can be challenging, getting approved is not impossible. The following tips will help those looking for an SBA loan for their business.

1. SBA Loans Can Help Y oung Companies. Entrepreneurs who are expanding their businesses are good candidates for SBA loans. Often, small business owners see their company become successful and grow past their personal financials, creating a need for extra capital to open a second location or otherwise expand. SBA-backed loans can be the perfect fit for these types of entrepreneurs, as their track record for success is a good indicator of low risk and a strong business model.

Traditional banks tend to be highly selective in choosing who to lend money, preferring borrowers who have borrowed at least once and have paid back at least one loan on time. But SBA loans offer some unique benefits, including lower payments over a l onger period. 2. A Detailed Business Plan Is Essential. Business owners need to provide a written business plan showing how they plan to use the proceeds from their loan. An SBA lender will want to see invoices, quotes, and estimates to show applicants have done their homework and understand their request. Without these details, the application may be rejected. It’s not uncommon for prospective borrower to have vague, abstract reasons for needing capital, which will lead to disappointment on both sides of the table. 3. Be Ready to Provide Collateral and Other Personal Guarantees. The US government is prepared to guarantee this loan, but it expects the borrower to guarantee it, too. To obtain the loan, a small business owner may need to allow the SBA to place a second mortgage on a home that has equity or pledge other personal assets. 4. Understand Your Company’s Financial Condition. Small business owners need to avoid a combination of poor credit and insuffi-


cient equity or collateral to receive loan approval. Lenders will often work with the owner to overcome one or two issues, such as a start-up with little collateral. But if the business also has a small amount of equity or questionable credit, it will be difficult to gain approval. Conversely, a business that has little equity but generates good cash flow and has strong collateral may qualify. 5. Provide Detailed Tax Returns and Personal Records Be prepared to provide lots of documents to qualify for a loan. The SBA requires each applicant provide three years of personal and business tax returns verified by the Internal Revenue Service. They must also complete a Statement of Personal History to verify that they do not have a criminal background. People often have passionate ideas or goals for their business, but sometimes have trouble developing a sound business plan with projected cash flow, revenues and profits. But by preparing yourself adequately for the application, and by taking the above-listed considerations into account, you will be in a much better position to secure your capital and get an SBA loan.

Alan Thomes President of SBA Banking State Bank & Trust Co.; 678-495-1650


Preserving the Business

and Legacy of Independent Community Pharmacy BY CHARLIE LE BON


s the healthcare landscape evolves, patients looking for quality care are turning to providers who can offer personalized attention, education, treatment and preventative screenings at a moment’s notice. Across the nation, and often in underserved rural areas, that level of attention is happening in more than 22,000 independent community pharmacies. These pharmacies are more than just healthcare destinations; they’re important small businesses and fixtures within their communities.

However, as critical as independent pharmacies are, they are facing unprecedented challenges as they work to remain financially viable – not unlike business across all sectors. Increased competition from major retail pharmacy chains, shrinking reimbursements and unpredictable direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees are market factors putting increased pressure on these small businesses. On top of these challenges, many owners want their independent pharmacy to endure in the community for decades to come, even if they are no longer the ones behind the counter. The good news is, there are a number of steps that owners can take to ensure the legacy they’ve created is preserved. And, while my focus is on independent pharmacy owners, these practices can be applied to almost any small business. Develop Meaningful Connections with Patients and Consumers Online Today, more than 80% of individuals conduct research online before making a purchase. It’s imperative that small businesses establish a digital presence to meet their audience where they are looking for infor-

mation. By establishing a digital presence and executing an online marketing strategy, owners can ensure potential customers are aware of the business while maintaining the loyalty of repeat visitors. For example, engaging with customers through social media can further solidify – or even establish -- relationships between the pharmacy (or business) and the patient. Business owners can also evaluate feedback across their social media channels, which can serve as a catalyst for practical changes that could improve operations by clearly demonstrating to customers that the business is listening and cares what patrons have to say. New technologies such as mobile apps are an important business driver for owners looking to differentiate themselves from their competitors. For pharmacists, apps can be a proactive tool for encouraging medication adherence and providing timely prescription updates to patients outside the physical pharmacy. Owners should leverage mobile apps to keep consumers engaged, even when they are not visiting the business. Engage a Qualified Team to Evaluate the Business Like many small business owners, pharmacists may not have the capacity to evaluate opportunities to grow. Outside experts, such as business coaches, can introduce new tools and resources as well as advise owners on ways to increase their operational efficiency. Business coaches have many ‘measuring sticks’ to help identify opportunities to help increase efficiencies and profitability within a small business. For example, in the case of pharmacy, tools that estimate DIR fees, which are a chal-

lenge to managing cash flow, can be a huge asset. They can bring a fresh perspective and help determine a store’s value within the market by reviewing prescription and financial data and benchmarking against peers. Small business owners should consult their industry groups to determine resources in their field they may not have considered yet. Develop an Exit Strategy While small business owners may not be planning to transition from their businesses in the immediate future, unexpected situations – such as a new competitor entering the market or the health of an owner or family member – could expedite that timeline. Many pharmacy owners who love providing for the needs of their communities may be understandably reluctant to contemplate a transition, but developing a proactive strategy early increases the likelihood of receiving the greatest value for their businesses when they are ready. A community pharmacy owner who starts planning their exit strategy years in advance has time to prepare the business for sale and find qualified buyers who share the same enthusiasm and passion for maintaining the business’ legacy and presence in the community. As independent pharmacy owners experience challenges that impact their businesses, these tips will help owners strengthen ties within the community, improve profitability and plan for the future while protecting their important legacy. It’s the elusive win-win-win. Charlie Le Bon, Director of Pharmacy Ownership Services Good Neighbor Pharmacy, (949) 212-1788, https:// [ APRIL 2018 ]



Enhance Service by Optimizing

Your Online Presence                   


There’s no question that an online presence is a necessity in today’s business marketplace. Even for small businesses with limited marketing budgets, this is an area worthy of investment. What many business owners and leaders don’t realize, however, is the impact (positive and negative) that an online presence has on the customer service experience. A vibrant and multi-faceted digital persona isn’t just about driving brand awareness and sales. It’s about giving today’s customers what they want. Nowhere is the value of an optimized online presence more prevalent than the automotive industry, where the customer experience is too often fraught with frustration and over-complication. In my business, we provide integrated technology solutions to automotive dealers across the globe, easing and streamlining the customer journey, from initial interest to post-purchase. This experience in a challenging industry uniquely qualifies us to alert you to the opportunities you may not be embracing. •Show Your Value Does your website differentiate you from your competition? Do you provide the range of information your customers want at-aglance, or are you expecting them to contact you for the details? Today’s customer is informed, empowered and short on time. If your web presence provides only an overview of your business, and if you’re expecting visitors to do the work of calling you to gather critical information, you’re leaving your potential customers frustrated. To avoid drop-off, comb through your web content to find opportunities to demonstrate your value. Begin by adding customer reviews and ratings, testimonials, detailed background on your experts, cost listings and a FAQ. • Make It Easy Are you prioritizing your customer’s time? Or are you making their experience more complicated than it needs to be? Within seconds of visiting your website, searching for your company or visiting a third party listing site (i.e. Yelp), your potential customer should have answers to the 28 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ APRIL 2018 ]

questions you receive most often. Perhaps more importantly, your potential customer should have multiple avenues for interacting with your team. Chat technology, message boards, Yelp messaging, emails targeting individuals or departments – the options are limitless. After learning the basics of your business, taking the “next step” to reach out should be the easiest thing in the world. Think beyond the phone call. • Outpace The Competition Have you ever spent time investigating your competition online? If your online presence needs improvement, odds are good that your competitors are in the same boat. In addition to implementing some of the improvements mentioned here, we recommend optimizing your service by embracing the newest digital tools. One example is your Google My Business listing, which should function as your digital business card. Enhancing this listing can have a tremendous impact on traffic. As an example, a recent study in which the Google My Business listing for 1,200 SEO clients was updated to simply include a link to the company’s service menu (a basic list of offerings). The addition of this link to the listing provided customers with a new way to get information, and they were responsive. In a three-month test period, overall service menu organic traffic increased 225% - translating to an average increase of six organic visitors to the service menu for each company over this period. That kind of result can transform a business and allow you to truly outpace your competition. No matter your industry or the size of your business, I assure you there is room to improve your online presence. The rate of return – not just in sales but in the loyalty of your customers – will be well worth the investment. Colleen Harris, Earned Marketing Lead Analyst, Digital Marketing at CDK Global


5 Brand-Sabotaging Mistakes to Avoid



oncise and step-by-step, my brand is known for dishing out proven sales boosting strategies via oneon-one consults with my small business clients. No deviations. Does your brand have the same strength and longevity? Consider the following 5 branding mistakes that all businesses should avoid.

1. Lack of a brand identity

Creating a brand involves analyzing every aspect of your business and how it is experienced. Branding is driven by consumers, but is always started at the top of your company. You must know your brand inside and out and sell it with passion before you can expect anyone else to do it. Marketing legend, Jack Trout, in 1969, said what holds true today: “Consumers don’t stop to figure you out; they just keep going.” You must have a memorable and unmistakable brand identity that stops consumers in their tracks.

2. Lack of consistency

Great brands promise consumers things that they value. The power and truth of a brand is judged by how consistently it is delivered upon. For this reason, the brand must be lived within an organization. In an organization with a powerful brand, EVERYONE is a brand manager by their actions. Your customers are your best promoters. That’s because many companies invest time and money letting consumers know what they’re promising but ultimately fail to tell their own employees just what that promise means for them. So, make sure your employees are well aware of the brand promise. If you are conveying your brand through living it successfully, your loyal customers will catch on and do the same.

3. Changing Message

Think carefully before launching yet another change in your brand message.

4. No Point of Difference

Also known as Unique Sales Proposition (USP), Point of Difference is the one, positive trait a given brand possesses that would not be duplicated with success by any competing brand. In order to create a differentiation that won’t be imitated, you have to think beyond the core benefits that are considered important in your brand’s product category. Ask yourself: “Why do people want this product or service from me instead of from my competitors?” Define your point of difference and how it will separate you from the pack.

5. Promising everything under the sun

Of course you should live up to your brand’s promise, but don’t promise everything from here to Timbuktu. While your brand promise should be relevant and up-to-date, don’t make large changes that will confuse your market. Are you ready to change your tagline or logo? Companies get tired of their own marketing way before the market does. And take note: customers remember what the company has promised, and they’re highly attuned to whether that promise is kept. If companies fail to deliver, consumers will skip to a competitor without a second thought. Don’t make any of these business-flopping mistakes when you are ready to launch your brand. Getting some expert advice and credible feedback before you dive headfirst into a big brand campaign may be a good idea. Take the time to do it right and you will have a lasting brand that your customers will instantly recognize, remember, and respect whenever they see it.

Communicating your brand paints a picture in the consumer’s mind about your Brand and about the consumers your Brand seeks to attract. When we buy a brand, we buy the concept that brand stands for because we like what it says about us. You want your brand to consistently communicate the right message to the right audience every time. Consistency is important for several reasons: You want the audience to memorize the message, you want a consistent reputation, and you want to build longevity and market share.

Holly George Founder Spitfire Promotion Group

[ APRIL 2018 ]



Examples of When Small Business

Insurance Can Save the Day




hoosing the most appropriate insurance policy to meet the needs of your business can become a complex task. In this post, we provide a rundown of different types of small business insurance, who they are suitable for, and what they

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance is an essential type of cover for all small businesses that offer services or come into contact with clients as it provides reassurance that you are covered in a situation where the actions of you or your employees result in injury or property damage (or allegations of these) occurring at your business premises. Because accidents can, and do, happen, here are some examples of when this type of cover could save the day: • You run a freelance photography business from your home studio, a client comes in for their photoshoot, trips over a cable and breaks their wrist on the way down. They sue your business for thousands in medical damages. • You’re an IT consultant, and wind up in a heated email exchange with a client. You take to social media to vent your frustrations in the aftermath. The words you write in your post are rude and untrue, and the client sues for slander.

Errors and Omissions Insurance (AKA Professional Liability Insurance)

Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance,

sometimes referred to as professional liability insurance, serves to protect your business against negligence claims that occur as a result of mistakes or disputes around your performance. Errors and omissions provides cover in instances where a client decides to make a claim against you as a result of the professional services that you have delivered, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. To better understand errors and omissions insurance cover, consider these examples of when you would be in trouble without it: • You run a small web hosting company, and your server is breached by hackers who gain access to your client data. Those companies affected by the hack sue for damages relating to the inadequate security that lead to the theft of their information. • You are an architect who has drawn up plans for a summer house for a client. Construction is underway when the client calls enraged because their garden is being ripped up order to lay the foundations. Was this an error on your part by not being clear enough in the plans, or an omission by not being more explicit? Or maybe, it was neither, and the gardens needn’t have been removed at all?

Director’s and Officer’s Insurance

Director’s and officer’s insurance policies cover can protect directors and officers of an organization against actions which may affect how their business is run, including financial responsibilities, and ensuring it is managed fairly and morally. If a party decides to take legal action, D&O


insurance can cover costs or damages lost as a result of a lawsuit. • You are on the board for a charity that is hosting a fundraising event. After the event, a complaint is made about the cost of the event, and questions are raised about how donations were spent. • You run a small bakery, where an employee was injured while attempting to repair a piece of faulty machinery and files a claim for your breach of Health & Safety legislation.

Umbrella Insurance

Umbrella insurance protects your business if a claim is made which exceeds the current limits on your primary insurance – without it, the claim would have to be paid out of your own pocket. You cannot purchase umbrella insurance as a policy on its own but rather its protection runs in addition to an existing primary liability insurance policy, giving you extra peace of mind. If you are still unsure about the type of insurance your business needs, be sure to thoroughly research the different options and speak to an expert. There really is no one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to insuring your small business, but the cost of not having it in place will be far greater. Maureen Brogie Senior Advisor InsuranceBee 978.344.4215


How Small Businesses Can Avoid Being Caught out by Brand Infringement BY ROB READING


hen it comes to the issue of trademarks, many small businesses could be forgiven for believing that the odds are stacked against them when compared to much larger global companies and conglomerates. But this is simply not true. Take the case of a UK-based company called Comic Enterprises Ltd., which runs several comedy clubs in London under the name of ‘The Glee Club’, and was registered as a trademark in 2001. However, trouble quickly arose when 20th Century Fox launched the hit TV show Glee in 2009: people began to believe that Comic Enterprise’s clubs were associated with the show Glee, which put many people off attending. Since Comic Enterprises had already secured the trademark for its Glee Club, it decided to take the case to The High Court of England and Wales, citing that 20th Century Fox — a company much larger than themselves — had infringed upon their brand. Not only did the court side with Comic Enterprises on the issue, but the original verdict was upheld even when 20th Century Fox decided to appeal the case. It was a major success for the small business, and an embarrassing defeat for the global conglomerate. This is a perfect example of why the trademark process must be given the time and attention it deserves — even as the challenge grows due to advances in marketing technology and the proliferation of social media platforms. To properly protect themselves, small businesses must work to secure their brand equity, which is undoubtedly the

most important intellectual property that a company holds. To do this, there are five steps that need to be kept in mind: 1. Act Quickly Once a brand, product or service name is agreed upon, a trademark application needs to be filed as soon as possible to prevent the competition getting there first. This level of proactivity is exactly why Comic Enterprises was able to win their case in the first place. 2. Protect Early Then, once the trademark has been successfully registered, brands need to actively monitor the marketplace to identify any potential conflicts that could cause complications further down the line. 3. Watch Globally When it comes to monitoring the marketplace, small businesses need to ask themselves one question: do we operate globally or do we have plans to? If so, it’s important to keep one eye on all the relevant marketplaces where you could have presence in the future, not just the single market that you might be operating in at present. Even if one of these markets seems too small to be of significance, this could be where your business is finally caught out. 4. Assess the Risk Small businesses must prioritize by concentrating on the infringements that have the greatest potential impact on your brand’s reputation. If a potentially infringing trademark has been identified, assess how much damage it is doing to your business. Brands should also consider enlisting the help of a third-party specialist to

support this assessment if they haven’t already. The very best options out there will be able to combine human expertise with sophisticated digital tools to help you receive and review the most relevant results, before advising you on the most appropriate action to take. 5. Secure Online Rights Brands’ intellectual property portfolios have expanded far beyond just logos and product names. Nowadays companies are recognized just as much for their web domains, social media usernames, hashtags, mobile app names and more. These digital properties form an essential part of a brand’s intellectual property, and so should be protected by following the traditional trademark process. Third-party specialists can also provide further help in this regard, ensuring that the online presence and reputation brands have worked so hard to achieve remain intact through thorough trademark filing and monitoring.


While there are certainly more factors than ever before for brands to consider when trademarking their IP, it does not make the task impossible. As proven by Comic Enterprises and many other businesses before them, following the trademark process and then taking proactive action to monitor for potential conflicts can protect small businesses against even the biggest competitors. Rob Reading, Director, CompuMark, a brand of Clarivate Analytics +1 800 692 8833 [ APRIL 2018 ]



Networking with Books BY GAIL STOLZENBURG


hen you are at a networking event, what method do you use to allow people to reconnect with you? Do you give them a business card that gets put in a stack of other business cards and put on the shelf? They may even go so far as converting it digitally and put it in a file. Or, they may just take a picture with their cell phone, like the millennials, or use a GS number. Or, worse case scenario, your card could get lost or thrown away. What if you gave them your book? They would have a more difficult time throwing it away and they may even read it and then, if they found it beneficial, tell a friend to read it. Most business cards are 3.5” x 2” and have space on one side for your contact information and a tag line and space on the back for more information. You might get 20 – 35 words on both sides, the average on one side seems to be about 12 – 15 words. A small book will have 80 – 100 pages or as many at 5,000 words and pictures to entertain and inform readers, share your message, offer products or services, promote future publications, conduct surveys, give referrals to other author friends, What should you write about? You have heard, “Everyone has a book in them” and the easiest way to write a book is to tell your life story. Books are door openers, credibility builders, and business cards that people keep. The most successful people read 50 non-fiction books every year or about one new book each week. In How to Write Your Life Story and Leave a Legacy - A Story Starter Guide & Workbook to Write your Autobiography and Memoirs by Melanie Johnson & Jenn Foster, bestselling authors and coaches of authors, say, “ A journal (book) offers an excellent means to preserve memories and discovers hidden aspects of yourself and your journey. Here is the tool to help you write your life history, to encourage and inspire others with your story. So, would now be a good time to get started on your life story?”


Write your book about your business. John C. Maxwell has over 60 books about “leadership”. For years, Brian Tracy wrote two new books a year to keep his name in front of the public. Howard Partridge and Erik Swanson have both written five best sellers in the past several years. There is something about being an author that adds credibility. People respect you more. And, of course want to network with you more. Networking Tip The only thing people remember from talking with you is the story you tell. It is really difficult to tell a story on a business card and easy in your book. When you listen to a presentation by speakers like Brad Sugars, founder of Action Coach or Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BN or Rod “The Storyteller” White, you will find that stories are very effective means of communicating your message. Start developing your story today. If you had a weekly newsletter, you could publish a book review of your book or a friend’s book. You could include chapters from your book as a blog or podcast, use quotes from your book in posts on social media. You meet the nicest people through books. Networking with a book can lead to invitations to give a talk about your book or When you give a talk, you could give your book as a prize in a drawing where you collect the attendees contact information. “We all have a life story and a message that can inspire others to live a better life or run a better business. Why not use that story and message to serve others?” – Brendon Burchard Your Network is Your Wealth! Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg Author of CONNECTIONS: Contacts to Clients | 281 493 1955


Killer PR Tips and Tricks You Can Use Today

to Get in the Press and Grow Your Business!                     BY ROBERT DEIGH


ou have a great small business with great products or services. So how come you feel invisible and your competitors get all of the attention? Good PR can make a big difference. Here are five killer PR tips you can use to get your story in the press just like the big guys and beat the competition -- even if you have no prior experience. As the founder of my own PR firm, I’ve found these to be invaluable and think you will too. First, get your company and your team “on message.” List the 4-5 benefits of your products/services that you want people to remember. Now weave those messages into all your communications including the website, marketing materials and, of course, any presentation or press interview. Appeal to your audience’s heads and hearts - the analytical and emotional. For example: “Clients love our team; some are the third generation in their family to do business with us.” “We have helped clients grow their business by as much as 25% per year.” Those messages really resonate! Be a great storyteller. This is so important that I have devoted an entire chapter in my new PR book to it. What are the stories you could “pitch” to reporters? Make a list. First, remember: What do reporters want?  1) A good story  idea (that might include your company of course), 2) industry information that may not yet be known (a new trend you heard about at a recent conference is perfect) and 3) experts, including you, to quote in their story. Frame any story idea you pitch to the media with compelling anecdotes. Maybe they’ll want to write about hard lessons you’ve learned along the way. Storytelling personalizes your company and makes you stand out from the competition. Use context. How does your story help me understand why you’re better than your competitors? Emphasize benefits over features. Most important - Give every story pitch this tough test: ask yourself “If I was a reporter, could I write an interesting story about this?” 

Also, look for “color.” Maybe your sales director is a former Olympian. Maybe one of your customers is a concert pianist. You might be the first in your family to start a business. Include those facts in your press pitches. Reporters are people too; they like reading about unusual people and events. Now let’s reach out to reporters. Don’t be intimidated. Keep in mind that a media interview is just a business transaction: you have a story idea and information of value to a reporter; the reporter can provide visibility for your company. It’s an even swap. Pick your targets. Decide whom you want to reach with your press stories, for example, prospective customers, industry leaders and maybe your trade association members. What do they read? Look at those publications and identify the type of story that you could envision being part of. Note the name of the writer of each story.  Contact the writers. Give them just enough detail and get to the point quickly. For example, “I see you cover XYZ. I have a good story for you about a trend in my industry that has not been widely publicized. I think it might interest your readers. We’ve been in that business for 20 years and can give your readers perspective. We have two experts on our staff that can talk to you.  Can I tell you more about it?”  Make it a point to call and/or email a couple of reporters a week. They are always looking for good stories and, after you’ve had a couple of your ideas accepted, they will regard you as a good, dependable “source.” Good sources get lots of publicity, become top-ofmind with their prospects, and grow their businesses. Now go out there and get ‘em! Robert Deigh Author, “SPARK: The Complete Public Relations Guide for Small Business” on Amazon 703-401-6339

[ APRIL 2018 ]



Top 3 Myths of Cyber Risk for Small

and Medium-Sized Businesses BY STEPHANIE REILLY


here are news reports daily of cyber criminals targeting large retailers, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, hospitality firms, and government entities. To weather the risks of security breaches, large firms typically rely on a combination of financial strength, extensive IT security operations, and cyber-risk insurance. For small- and medium-sized businesses, the risks are no less prevalent. Without the protection backstops available to larger organizations, however, the consequences for smaller firms who lack coverage are potentially catastrophic—if not existential. Though cyber-risk insurance is an invaluable tool for companies of all sizes, small-to-medium-sized groups are often deterred from including it in their business insurance portfolios due to three myths.

Myth 1: “We are too small to be a target”

According to Jeff Bardin, Chief Intelligence Officer of cyber-risk consulting firm Treadstone71, “Forty percent of cyberattacks are aimed at companies with 500 employees or less.” Common sources of big claims for smaller businesses include the following: • Poor control and lack of encryption tools on laptops and mobile devices • Rogue employees or simple human error • Fraudulent email invoices • Spyware intrusion targeting unsecured customer records • Ransomware attacks, which affect thousands of firms of all sizes and are increasing at an ominous rate The impacts of cyber-attacks on smalland medium-sized businesses include lost customers, distracted staff, repu-

tational harm, fines and damages, and expenses for forensics, remediation, notification, credit monitoring, and legal defense and/or settlements. Myth 2: “Our exposure is not that great” Believing their IT operations are lowtech and unappealing to cyber attackers, many small- and medium-sized firms are unaware of the extensive threats they face. On the contrary, hackers see a valuable and easily accessible data.

There are two categories of cyber-risk exposures:

• Third-party exposures include the liability a business has to others due to an unlawful breach of its network, transmission of malicious code (e.g., a virus), a denial of service attack, or the theft and subsequent criminal use of confidential data on individuals or proprietary firm secrets. • First-party exposures include losses a business incurs when an event causes damage or malfunction to its equipment or that of a supplier or customer; extra expenses to minimize the duration of a loss; costs to replace destroyed data; and the financial losses due to cyber extortion or computer fraud. To further intensify matters, the cyber-risk environment continues to evolve and worsen with emerging exposures arising from technological advances in social media, cloud computing, the internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence.

Myth 3: “Our existing insurance coverage protects us”

Even for firms that recognize the ex-


panding scope of their cyber-risk exposures, many are lulled into a false sense of confidence that they already have protection. There may be some cyber-risk protection in the following business insurance policies: General Liability, Property, Crime or Executive Protection (e.g., Directors’ & Officers’, Employment Practices). But there exist two critical caveats: • These policies were not designed to respond to cyber-attacks and coverage is limited—beware of policy exclusions. • Underwriters are increasingly carving cyber coverage out of conventional polices in favor of cyber-specific policies—the modest coverage you have today may be gone at your next renewal. What is the best path forward for small and medium-sized businesses? First, invest the time to understand your firm’s unique cyber-risk exposures and what is and is not covered by your existing insurance portfolio. With that assessment in hand, you will be well-positioned to work with your insurance consultant to design a cyber-insurance policy tailored to your operations, obtain quotation options, and evaluate whether to purchase the coverage. Stephanie Reilly is Vice President of Relation Insurance Service’s West Coast Risk Management Practice. She has more than 32 years of extensive insurance experience leading and working as part of multi-discipline client service teams in a wide range of industries including healthcare, commercial real estate, financial institutions, manufacturing and distribution, and hospitality. Her technical areas of competence include Workers Compensation, Property, Liability, Professional Liability, Cyber Liability and Executive Risk coverage, as well as alternative risk financing mechanisms and techniques. Stephanie can be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin. com/in/stephanie-reilly-a1a66114/.






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